September 11th, 2001 is forever marked as a painful day in America’s history. Over 3,000 people perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside of Washington D.C. While the nation mourned and emergency services sprung into action to clear debris and search for survivors, a little known team was called upon for help.
It is estimated that over 100 trained service dogs were deployed through the New York City Fire Department and FEMA to aid in the search for survivors amidst the chaos. They worked 12 hour days for two weeks straight scavenging through smoldering debris to aid rescue workers hoping to find anyone left alive from the attacks. Most of them never found a single person.
In addition to the survivors that the rescue dogs did find, the dogs had an unexpected effect on survivors and witnesses close to Ground Zero. Amidst the heartbreak and uncertainty of such a destructive loss of life, the rescue dogs brought comfort and reassurance to those nearby. Emergency aid workers noted that the dogs helped everyone feel a little calmer, relaxed, and disconnect from the sad reality they were faced with. Something about the wag of a tail and a soft hug went a long way to raise the spirits of those looking on and those left to continue the search.
Even after the arduous hunt for survivors was called off, the dogs continued to bring hope and strength to those around them. Many of the dogs involved in the 9/11 emergency efforts went on to assist in multiple natural disasters prior to their retirement. The very last of the 9/11 search and rescue canines, Bretagne, was put to rest a few years ago at the ripe old age of 16.
September 11th will eternally be a reminder of a terrible loss on American soil. However, thanks to the valiant efforts of the fire departments, police departments, medical professionals and, of course, their canine helpers, we can also remember this day as one where our nation came together to take care of each other and slowly begin to heal. Today in our remembrance, the Paws Abroad team would like to honor all of those that responded to the chaos of that day and are proud of the continued amazing things that animals bring to people’s lives each and every day.